Those who know George Leventis say he was a devoted son.
Leventis was 13 when his father died. The two were on a deer hunting trip when his father suffered a heart attack. Leventis ran a couple miles for help, but it was too late.
He became the "man of the house" and spent decades caring for his mother.
Leventis was charged in December with abuse/neglect of a vulnerable adult resulting in his mother's death. He pleaded no contest Wednesday to neglect of a vulnerable adult.
Circuit Court Judge Keith Kelly, considering that Leventis had no prior criminal record and was by all accounts a "loyal, committed, ideal son," sentenced Leventis to three years in prison, suspended to three years of probation.
Leventis entered an Alford plea. In an Alford plea, a defendant does not admit guilt, but concedes that the prosecution has evidence that could result in a guilty verdict if the case was tried.
Leventis made his way to the front of the courtroom with the aid of a walker. He was allowed to sit in a chair during the plea hearing. Leventis, his attorney, and a doctor say he suffers from several health problems and has applied for disability. And they said he had neglected his own health for years in order to care for his ailing mother.
He was hospitalized and in intensive care for a week about four years ago and didn't think he would survive. His mother, then about 100, visited him every day.
"I made up my mind there that regardless of what my problems were I wasn't going to take a risk on doing the surgery for me and ending up being incapacitated or not surviving," Leventis said through a voice choked by emotion as he addressed the court.
"... It was my calling to be a caregiver, but more than that it was a blessing from God," Leventis said.
The prosecution said Leventis and his then 104-year-old mother, Demetra Leventis, lived together at 208 Hillbrook Drive. Acting on information from a home health care nurse, officers with the Spartanburg Public Safety Department responded last December to their home.
Medical records showed that Demetra Leventis was last seen by a doctor on Oct. 15, 2012 and "appeared to be in as good a condition as you can be at that age," Deputy Solicitor Derrick Bulsa told Judge Keith Kelly.
Bulsa said he found nothing in notes from that doctor's visit to suggest anything out of the ordinary. Bulsa said a nurse called in to help Leventis care for his mother arrived at the home on Dec. 4.
Bulsa said the living conditions were "deplorable," the nurse saw gnats flying around Demetra Leventis, bugs on her and maggots in a sore.
"(The nurse) became alarmed and wanted to clean her up and treat her. Mr. Leventis said he had to go to a doctor's appointment," Bulsa said.
Bulsa said Leventis would not remain and had the nurse leave the house.
Demetra Leventis was removed from the home and hospitalized. She died about a week later, Bulsa said. He said the cause of death was failure to thrive, secondary to the wasting away of her body and neglect, contributing factors were multiple body ulcers and infection.
Bulsa said there was plenty of food in the house, but Demetra Leventis was diagnosed at the hospital with skin breakdown suggestive of malnutrition and dehydration.
"It appears that he just quit taking care of his mother," Bulsa said.
Leventis' attorney, Pete Diamaduros, said his client took his mother to doctor's appointments, the mall where she would look at shoes and to get her hair done.
"This is something that happened, it was uncontrollable, unavoidable, not something that he did intentionally or by neglect ... It just happened because the perfect storm came into place," Diamaduros told Kelly.
Diamaduros said Leventis suffers numerous health problems of his own, which also made it difficult to care for his ailing mother.
Leventis graduated Spartanburg High School in 1969, and after graduating Wofford College he obtained a law degree, but decided he didn't want to be a lawyer, Diamaduros said. Leventis went to graduate school and earned a Master's of Art in international studies.
In 1983, a year or so after Leventis completed graduate studies, his mother became sick and spent about 60 days in the hospital after surgery. Leventis, Diamaduros said, returned to Spartanburg and cared for her - visiting her three times a day every day of her hospitalization.
"The next 30 years, up until her death, they lived together here in Spartanburg," Diamaduros said.
Demetra Leventis emigrated here from Greece, was not fluent in English and was unable to drive.
"She never wanted to go to a nursing home. He never wanted to put her in a nursing home," Diamaduros said.
Mother and son visited Greece in 2004. While they were there, his mother fell and broke a femur. Leventis remained in Greece with her while she recuperated.
She had hip surgery in 2006 and spent about a month in the intensive care unit, Diamaduros said.
"George actually had them put a bed in the room," he said.
Diamaduros said medical records showed that she weighed 100 pounds at 95, about 80 pounds at 103 and weighed 66 pounds after an infection. The defense maintained that she was dying.
Diamaduros said Demetra Leventis went to the doctor's office six to eight times a year for 40 years, until making 16 visits the final year of her life. Diamaduros submitted that showed her body was beginning to break down.
Doctor's notes did not reveal any concerns about Leventis' care or that she should be placed in a nursing home and said was "well nourished."
Diamaduros said Leventis contacted his mother's doctor after finding a bed sore and followed instructions, pointing out that antibiotic ointments, gauze and bandages were found in the home. Leventis contacted a doctor after the sore worsened and he was prescribed a medication to treat the wound.
"Did the infection get out of hand? I guess so," Diamaduros said.
The Rev. George Nayfa with St. Nicholas Greek Orthodox Church addressed the court in support of Leventis. Nayfa said he had known Leventis and his mother for 20 years.
"In all the years I've known them, he has sacrificed for his mother, but never regretted it ... that was his life," Nayfa said.He would see mother and son at stores.
"I know how much he loved her," Nayfa said.
Demetra Leventis, Nayfa said, was "tired" and nearing the end of life. Nayfa said parishioners admired the sacrifices that Leventis made for his mother.
Leventis asked the judge for mercy before the sentence was handed down. He said a memorial service for his mother is upcoming, and said he has to attend.
"I need to be able to take flowers to my mom's grave," he said.